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Do you remember County Supervisor Dianne Jacob’s epic battle with newspaper/real estate goliath Sam Zell, the owner of the LA Times?

Jacob appears to have won.

Some background. Last year, Jacob penned an editorial for us about the war. Zell’s company, which owns various mobile home parks in San Diego County, had sued her for defamation.

The court threw out much of his case but left a significant question to be decided about three specific statements the county supervisor had made publicly about Zell’s company.

Then Jacob, showing a little “testicular fortitude” (she is fond of this phrase), decided to double down and call Zell out on our site. She had submitted an op-ed to the LA Times, but Zell’s paper rejected it. So she brought it to us. Here’s a taste of it:

Today, weeks after the appeals court dismissed all but a small piece of the case against me, I am convinced that Zell is using our judicial system to bully me and intimidate those who dare question how MHC treats its customers.

The court spent the last year working on whether these statements Jacob made were indeed defamatory to Zell’s company or whether his claim was a so-called “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation,” or SLAPP. California and other states have legal protections for those who successfully claim that a large company or powerful individual is suing them only to keep them from airing complaints.

Here were the statements Zell’s company — Manufactured Homes Communities — claimed defamed it.

On November 16, 2002, Defendant Jacob attended a tenants meeting at Lamplighter Park, where Defendant Jacob made several allegedly false statements about Plaintiff, including the following: (1) Plaintiff is a greedy, profit-driven company that enjoys forcing the elderly out of their homes in order to move in more expensive homes for a greater profit; (2) “it would be interesting to see” if Plaintiff had engaged in any fraudulent actions; and (3) Defendant Jacob had spoken with County Counsel and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who were “very interested” in following up on whether civil or criminal actions should be pursued against Plaintiff.

The federal court reviewing the case sided with Jacob and the county and Zell’s company will have to pay the county’s attorney fees. You can review the findings here.

Jacob just stared down one of the most powerful dudes in the land.

SCOTT LEWIS

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